A conversation between Jennifer Piette, founder of farm-to-table delivery service Out of the Box Collective, and customer Barrett Prendergast, founder of boutique catering and luxury gift box company Valleybrink Road. We talk family, cooking, and raising kids with fresh, local, organic food.
JP: One of my favorite parts of your Instagram feed is getting to know your adorable toddler Costa. How does he like your cooking?
BP: I used to be a very picky eater — for all of my childhood up until my early 20s. So when it comes to my own son, I have a clear understanding of what my mother went through with me. I understand picky eaters! I try to make sure he’s introduced to new foods and trying new things all the time. I get so excited when I find out that he loves something new. “Oh my God, you love pesto,” and then of course the next time I make it for him, he spits it out in my face! (laughs)
JP: The thing about kids is every time you think you’ve got into a routine, or figured them out, they change everything up!
BP: But you just have to keep trying! Even if you think your kids don’t like something, you just try and try again. And get them involved. My husband’s family is from Italy and it’s a really magical time — sitting around the table shelling beans together as a family. I feel like we don’t have a lot of that here.
JP: Yes, when I lived in Portugal, those were some of favorite memories. Sitting there with three generations of family, talking about the day, talking about life, talking about food, and of course it’s like a national event shelling fava beans in the spring, when they come into season.
BP: My son Costa has a great time sitting in his high chair right across from the stove. He stirs things in his bowl and sees everything I do. He makes smoothies every morning with us. Or he’s playing around with the pots and pans.
JP: I have a lot of customers that say their kids think box day is like Christmas, and their weekly job is to unpack the box.
BP: It’s the best thing that ever happened to me! So much of what I do is on the weekends because that’s when parties are, so it’s such a gift to know that even if I can’t make it to the farmer’s market, I’ll get what I want. It arrives and it’s the most important thing that happens for Costa on Monday mornings. He’s like “The Box!”
I never know what’s coming, and I really like the creativity it inspires. I have beets, this beautiful lettuce, these lovely herbs — we’ll make something out of it.
JP: OTB boxes and “#boxlife” attract an incredibly creative group of people. That’s one of the things that really inspires us each week when we put the ingredients and the meal plans together. We’ve got so many amazing and inspiring customers!
BP: It’s a creative process.
JP: Yes, we deliver the ingredients and the recipes, but it’s not all chopped and measured and cook-by-numbers like a Blue Apron meal kit. People can do their own thing, or find inspiration from the recipes. There’s a lot of freedom there, and it’s so great to feel good about what you’ve created in the kitchen. We’re just there to make the process a bit easier for busy people, and to help them take back cooking.
BP: For me, it’s very spontaneous. I’ll open the box and the fridge, and I can always figure out what to make. Especially with produce and veggies. Throw some vinegar on it, roast and it’s ready in 30 minutes or less. I’m not a big recipe person, but my husband is the opposite. He needs to know exactly what the ingredients are, and he needs the recipes.
JP: Recipes are a great way to stay inspired and motivated, and to keep trying new flavors and ingredients.
BP: I always tell people to start with simple, basic recipes. When you start with a recipe with 25 ingredients — a recipe within a recipe within a recipe — after all that work, it usually doesn’t taste good. I think the best cookbook for beginning cooks is Alice Waters’ The Art of Simple Food. Everything is simple, three to five ingredients. It’s so approachable. Essentials of Italian Cooking by Marcella Hazan is another great one.
JP: I also love the recipes on your blog. They are like that too. Approachable and delicious! And they help people who want to get back into the kitchen.
BP: We’re so lucky to be involved in this movement of home delivery. I see it with my friends. They love getting amazing produce and supporting local farmers. It’s affordable and it’s not difficult to get access to. Our companies do the curation, and we help our customers and clients explore new recipes and great foods.
People seem very grateful that I care about what I’m buying and cooking for them. That love and care really, really translates. My clients have comfort in knowing that I care about them. They know that I’m sourcing ingredients from the best places, just like you.
JP: There’s an intangible here that I think radiates out of the whole process from the farmer to the dinner table — a special energy coming from the food when its grown, selected, and prepped with so much love and care.
BP: And people can taste it. I know there’s no going back once you understand where your ingredients are coming from, and you’ve tasted this incredible food and taken the time and care to prepare it. Once you’ve had those experiences, your view of food is very different. Then you know that going to Ralph’s deli counter just isn’t the same.
JP: We’re just so excited to have created this ValleyBrink Road Box with you Barrett. This is such a fun collaboration. Thank you for everything!
BP: It was lots of fun. Thank you!